Lateral masking

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Barcodes are difficult to process for the human mind because of lateral masking.

Lateral masking is a problem for the human visual perception of identical or similar entities in close proximity. This can be illustrated by the difficulty of counting the vertical bars of a barcode.

In linguistics lateral masking refers to the interference a letter has on its neighbor.[1] This is a problem readers encounter when reading a word. The identity of a letter in the middle of a word is obscured by the presence of its neighboring letters.

Lateral masking may also be a problem in orthography design. A readable orthography will avoid situations in which a reader is faced with severe lateral masking.


  1. ^ Massaro, Dominic W. and Alexandra Jesse (2005): The Magic of Reading - Too many influences for quick and easy explanations. in: Richard L. Venezky, Tom Trabasso, John P. Sabatini, Dominic W. Massaro, Robert Calfee (eds.): From Orthography to Pedagogy: Essays in Honor of Richard L. Venezky. Routledge. ISBN 0-8058-5089-9